Written by Max Sharp.
What is with Leon MacDonald's Blues and keeping people on the edge of their seats in the second half? After a convincing 20-7 lead ay half time, the Blues held on to win by just one point, with a final margin of 20-19 against the Brumbies. Dan McKellar, the Brumbies' coach, will be gutted to have lost to these Blues, who have lost just a single match in 2022. After needing to catch our breaths after some crazy drama, we'll read through the players from jersey number 1, through to 23, to see how each player from the Blues fared.
Blues Player Ratings
Loosehead Prop - Alex Hodgman (7/10)
Wasn't exactly the most effective runner, with 3 metres off 1 carry, Hodgman made more passes (2) than carries. He made 2 tackles due to the team's 61% possession rate in the second half, but scrummaged hard and won 2 turnovers in a strong performance.
Hooker - Kurt Eklund (6/10)
The muscular hooker was yellow-carded in the second half but played well aside from that. Completed all 10 of his tackles and threw accurately in the lineout, though his running game was disarmed by the Brumbies' defence.
Tighthead Prop - Nepo Laulala (7/10)
Allan Alaalatoa and James Slipper will be having nightmares after Laulala caused the Brumbies' scrum feed to collapse twice. Though Laulala did not run with ball-in-hand, he showed up to give a great, old-fashioned scrum lesson, while nailing 5/5 tackles.
Lock 4 - Josh Goodhue (5/10)
This kind of game didn't present the number 4 with many opportunities. Goodhue was limited to 2 metres off 4 carries, while his only other contributions outside the lineout were 2 passes and 4 tackles. Replaced after 57 minutes so the team could get more ruck dominance.
Lock 5 - Tom Robinson (8/10)
Serious athleticism came out of the flanker-turned-lock, who ran 31 metres and 2 clean breaks off his 8 carries. Robinson, at 1.98m, also made 3 passes and 1 offload, while he got busy on defence with 13/15 tackles. Won a crucial lineout steal with less than 20 to go.
Blindside Flanker - Akira Ioane (7/10)
Comfortably got through his 10/11 tackles unscathed, having had a bit of an injury-ridden season, while running strongly with 21 metres and 3 defenders beaten off 6 carries. Ioane is well and truly the All Blacks' incumbent blindside, with Ethan Blackadder gone until 2023.
Openside Flanker - Adrian Choat (5/10)
Did not manage any carries, but made 11/11 tackles for the Blues. Looked fairly nervous when yellow-carded in the 74th minute, so will be relieved that it didn't cost his team the match. A bit of an average outing.
Number 8 - Hoskins Sotutu (9/10)
Where are all of the keyboard warriors who suggested he'd miss out on All Blacks selection? Sotutu stood up as a big-game player again, with 40 metres and 4 defenders beaten off 7 carries. Kept the game free-flowing with 7 passes and 1 offload, while contributing 11/12 tackles and 1 turnover. Sotutu has (sadly) shut the door on Pita Gus Sowakula's All Blacks hopes.
Halfback - Finlay Christie (6/10)
Christie didn't stand out as much as normal but performed the basics right. 17 metres and 1 defender beaten off 3 carries aren't the flashiest running stats, though Christie stayed on the entire match to make 59 passes whilst guiding the team to a win. 4/6 tackles could be improved on.
First-Five - Beauden Barrett (8/10)
A lack of line speed by the Brumbies allowed Barrett several attempts to penetrate their defence. Though he kicked possession away far too much, 72 metres, 7 defenders beaten, 1 clean break, 14 carries, 5 offloads, 3/4 tackles (including a try-saver) and 2 turnovers makes for an impressive stat sheet. Can he lead his adopted team to victory next week?
Left Wing - Mark Telea (4/10)
Kept pretty quiet by the Brumbies. Telea was forced to operate as a crash-ball runner, with 26 metres and 2 defenders beaten from 6 carries. Not quite the defensive performance we've become accustomed to, with 3/6 tackles. Nobody's perfect.
Second-Five - Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (5/10)
He's defended brilliantly for the Blues and continued that this evening with 7/7. On attack though, he will genuinely struggle at test level, I'm genuinely concerned for Tuivasa-Sheck as Ian Foster looks primed to select him. Tuivasa-Sheck was only able to run the ball straight, though it was for 34 metres off 6 carries. Knocked on in the build-up to a potential try with 15 minutes left. Tuivasa-Sheck needs more time in his new code.
Centre - Rieko Ioane (9/10)
Came out firing to deliver an all-round game to his audience. Barring 9/11 tackle attempts, Ioane was perfect, running 67 metres, also beating 5 defenders off his 6 carries. Looked to float the ball wide as much as possible, with 8 passes and 2 offloads. The season's MVP.
Right Wing - AJ Lam (10/10)
Will Leon MacDonald rush Caleb Clarke back in? Lam quite literally had a perfect game. Getting little ball, he still ran 65 metres, beat 6 defenders and made 2 clean breaks from just 4 carries. Added 2 passes to his game; completing all 6 of his tackle attempts and making 1 turnover. Samoa should have picked him for this season.
Fullback - Stephen Perofeta (7/10)
Played his way into Damian McKenzie's All Black spot. 6 effective carries saw Perofeta run 40 metres and beat 2 defenders, while he delivered 15 passes and 2 offloads to get his team going forward. 3/4 tackles was perhaps a low defensive effort, though it was done well.
Reserve Hooker - Soane Vikena (No rating)
The youngster did not play so won't be rated.
Reserve Loosehead Prop - Karl Tu'inukuafe (5/10)
On for Hodgman in the 50th minute and didn't provide much impact, making just 3 tackles. Tu'inukuafe hasn't been the same since returning from injury; he likely knows this, hence the signing with Montpellier. All the best to him with the journey there and with next week's send-off match.
Reserve Tighthead Prop - Ofa Tu'ungafasi (8/10)
The stats truly don't tell the story here. Tu'ungafasi came on with 23 minutes left and continued the team's scrum dominance. Though he had run just 3 metres from 1 carry and made just 4 tackles, his charge down on Noah Lolesio's drop goal saved the Blues' season.
Reserve Lock - Luke Romano (6/10)
On for Goodhue in the 57th minute and added real strength to the scrum. Made 1 pass and 5/5 tackles, while also heightening the Brumbies' conservation of lineout ball. Came on and did his job.
Reserve Loose Forward - James Tucker (No rating)
Despite an outstanding season so far, Tucker did not play.
Reserve Halfback - Sam Nock (No rating)
Having played his 50th Blues match last week, Nock did not come on to play his 51st.
Reserve Midfielder - Tamati Tua (No rating)
Having been given little game time throughout the season, Tua was one of the 5 Blues replacements not to take the field against the Brumbies.
Reserve Utility Back - Zarn Sullivan (No rating)
The same situation as Tua and company. Luckily we can count on Sullivan to come on to kick a winning drop goal if need be next week!